What Are These Kids Saying? Cracking the Code On Gen Z Slang

Language is an ever-changing and highly flexible cultural artifact. This flexibility is due, in part, to the appearance of new hip terms and lingo coined by different generations. Boomers, for example, are often confused about millennials’ obscure use of slang, which is very much influenced by the culture that they grew up in. But it is the children of Gen Z —those born between 1996 and 2010— who are bringing some of the most amusing and creative additions to the English language.

At Listen & Learn, we believe that getting acquainted with such contemporary nuances is a big part of language learning. That is why, today, we are bringing you a list with the wittiest examples of Gen Z slang.

Being Left on Read

Left on read is typically used for messages on social media such as WhatsApp and Telegram. Because these platforms notify users when a message has been viewed, the implication of this Gen Z term is that the receiver is intentionally ignoring the sender, making them feel snubbed.

Extra

If a person is extra, they exhibit dramatic or excessive behaviour for no apparent reason.

Sam made a 1000 word assignment when only 250 words were required. He is the living definition of extra!

Facts

This expression, which originated in New York, is used to respond to a point well made. It just means that you completely agree with what has just been said.

Ron: I wish Rihanna would stop putting out fragrances and drop a new song for a change!

Anne: Facts!

Finsta

Short for "fake Instagram." Finstas are alternative Instagram accounts reserved for close friends. They are frequently used for memes or pictures you wouldn’t want your boss to see.

Clarisse: Bruh, you didn’t react to my last Harry Styles meme.
Nick: Oh, I’ll check it out now. Insta or Finsta?
Clarise: Finsta.

Goals

A term used to describe something desirable, such as a relationship, a workout routine, or a person's professional success. It’s usually used as a hashtag on social media.

OMG, this look is #Goals! Stop being so perf!

Iconic 

Something or somebody, typically a celebrity, that is unique and highly influential. It can also refer to a work of art or a cultural product.

Did you catch Gaga and Ari’s VMA performance last night? It was instantly iconic!

(I’m) Dead

A common reaction to a funny remark or meme. It shows that you’re highly amused and surprised at how hilarious something is. It could be described as an equivalent of LMAO.

A boy, for example, might show a funny sketch of a teacher to a classmate at school. Choked with laughter, the latter shows his amusement by mouthing “Dead”.

Mood

This expression means that something is relatable or accurately describes one’s feelings. Used in lieu of “same (here)”.

Liam: *sends this meme on New Year’s Eve*

Eddie: BIG MOOD.

OK, boomer

In Gen Z slang, this is a dismissive response to remarks or suggestions made by older people. It is often accompanied by an exasperated eye-roll.

Boomer: All kids do nowadays is to stare at their phones and play videogames. When I was your age I would play outdoors and do actual exercise.

Non-boomer: Ok, boomer.

Shipping

Derived from the word relationship, this term is used when someone wants two other people to be romantically involved -- or supports the continuity of an existing relationship. Shipping is especially popular in fandom culture.

Martin: Did you read my fanfic about Thor and Loki?

Mia: Yeap, it was amazing. I ship them so bad!

Martin: I know. Torki forever.

Shook

Shocked or surprised at something you’ve just seen or heard. Alternatively, you might hear shooketh in the same contexts.

Alex: Tell me you saw Drag Race last night.

Lucy: I did! Shangela’s Game of Thrones look left me completely SHOOK.

Spill the tea

Not different from “spill the beans”, this is a Gen Z term used to ask someone to share an especially juicy bit of gossip. "T" also stands for the word "truth" in drag culture. To spill the tea or T, then, means telling the truth about an exciting or scandalous topic.

Brie: Girl, did you know Carey is having a baby? And that the daddy is non-other than her husband’s best friend?

Lindsey: OMG, spill the tea on that drama!

Stan

Based on the main character in the Eminem song of the same name, a "stan" is an obsessive fan of any celebrity or sportsperson. The term can also be used as a verb.

Olivia: Have you seen the Ammonite trailer? Saoirse is totally coming for that 5th Oscar nom.

Cate: Gurl! You just say that because you’re a complete stan. That trailer looks boring as hell.

Although some of these Gen Z slang terms and examples might seem humorous, it’s undeniable that having a good command of slang, especially the kind used by teenagers, helps learners to stay current and to avoid misinterpretations. We believe that informal language is an important skill for students of all ages who want to keep up with the evolution of the language they’re learning. If you liked this article and you want to know more about informal English, check our blog on Internet slang.

And if you want to understand every nuance of these Gen Z slang terms, what better than to take English classes with a trained native speaker tutor? They will be able to give you hundreds of examples in meaningful contexts.